Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday threatened Meral Akşener, chairman of the opposition İyi (Good) Party, saying she would pay a price like others have for allegedly slandering him.
“You cannot prove that Erdoğan called his people terrorists,” Erdoğan said referring to himself in third person at a rally in the run-up to March 31 local elections after the two politicians argued over Erdoğan’s remarks accusing the opposition of supporting terrorists.
Erdoğan openly threatened Akşener in Elazığ province in reference to jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş. “You will pay for [your remarks]. Your ally is paying the price. Some people are serving time in prison now. You could share the same fate,” Erdoğan said, targeting Akşener.
In response to the president’s threat of imprisonment, Akşener tweeted that she would not be intimidated and refused to be silenced against injustice.
President Erdoğan on Thursday filed a legal complaint against Akşener for allegedly insulting him.
Erdoğan filed the complaint due to Akşener’s remarks at a rally in Denizli in the run-up to local elections. According to Erdoğan lawyer Hüseyin Aydın, Akşener said in Denizli on Wednesday that Erdoğan called the people of the province “terrorists” for their political choices.
In his remarks Erdoğan had claimed that an alliance of opposition parties includes the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which he called the political representative of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Erdoğan’s lawyer claimed that the president warned the people against this relationship and urged them to be sensitive to it.
Erdoğan’s lawyer asked for a “case in the name of the public” against Akşener for insulting the president.
Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.
According to the Denge ve Denetleme Ağı, or DDA (Checks and Balances Network), an umbrella civil society group that consists of 271 nongovernmental organizations, 13,000 cases have been filed against individuals over the past seven years based on Article 299. The group said elected individuals should be more tolerant of criticism, satire and accusations, which are a natural result of being in those posts.
The slightest criticism of Erdoğan is considered an insult, and there has been a rise in the number of cases in Turkey in which people inform on others claiming that they insulted the president, the government or government officials.